The Daily Gamecock

Gamecock running back room has potential to be four-headed monster

<p>Redshirt freshman running back Marshawn Lloyd breaks free from an Eastern Illinois player on Sept. 4, 2021. Lloyd would go on to make a first down for the Gamecocks.</p>
Redshirt freshman running back Marshawn Lloyd breaks free from an Eastern Illinois player on Sept. 4, 2021. Lloyd would go on to make a first down for the Gamecocks.

The running backs for the South Carolina football team currently rank 10th in the SEC in total rushing yards and 14th in rushing touchdowns. Each of the four backs possesses a different skill set, which allows head coach Shane Beamer and offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield options when it comes to the run game. 

"You can't have too many backs, that's for sure," Beamer said in his media availability prior to the East Carolina game. 

Junior running back Kevin Harris came into the season recovering from an off-season surgery and missed the first game of the year due to illness. Harris' name is well-known after his SEC leading 1,138 yard campaign in 2020. Harris is one of only 10 running backs in South Carolina history that has rushed for 1,000 yards in a season. 

In his first game against East Carolina in week two, Harris carried the ball seven times for 33 yards. Harris continued his slow start against Georgia during week three, where he was shut down by Georgia‚Äôs front seven, carrying 16 times for 31 yards. 

Another talented running back is redshirt senior ZaQuandre White. White was the top-ranked running back recruit out of Florida in 2017, and he committed to Florida State. After getting himself in trouble and a brief JUCO stint, White ended up on the South Carolina roster.

White took advantage of the second chance South Carolina gave him and was voted most improved offensive player honors selected by coaches at the end of spring camp 2021. He even started the first game of the season against Eastern Illinois. 

In week one, White exploded for 128 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. He also led the team in receiving yards with four receptions for 39 yards and a touchdown. 

"ZaQuandre White can do everything," redshirt freshman running back MarShawn Lloyd said of White following the victory. 

White did not get as many carries in week two, rushing five times for only eight yards. Week three against Georgia was more of the same, as White rushed for only 31 yards, albeit all on the final drive of the game.

Like Harris, Lloyd is also returning from an injury suffered last season.

Lloyd is still the highest-rated running back recruit to the school since Marcus Lattimore back in 2010. Lloyd had a good showing in the season opener against Eastern Illinois, carrying the ball 14 times and for 55 yards. In the last two weeks Lloyd has carried the ball 12 times for 40 yards.

The newest face in the room is true freshman Juju McDowell. McDowell weighs in at 177 lbs, is 5-foot-9 and plays the role of the short, speedy back who can get to the outside quickly.

"It's amazing, having a guy like Juju." Lloyd said. "When you see this kid play, he plays bigger than what he is, and he pushes every single one of us everyday." 

McDowell had a strong opening week with 12 carries for 52 yards, but McDowell's best performance so far came in week two against ECU when he had 11 carries for 71 yards. When his team needed him the most in the fourth quarter, McDowell carried the ball for big gains of 15 and 16 yards on the final drive to set up redshirt senior kicker Parker White for the game-winning field goal. 

With so much potential, it makes the decision on who to play that much harder for Beamer and Satterfield. Since the room is so diverse, decisions on playing time will be made based on what gives the team the best chance to win within that week.

"A lot of it was going to depend on what the first play of the game was," Beamer said following week one. "So I mean, if we had called something else that we wanted Juju in specifically for, or Marshawn, then they would have been out there," Beamer said. 

Harris is seen as a leader of the unit and rock within the room. Looking further ahead into SEC play, Harris spoke about what the unit can do. 

"Really just work together, keep practicing, keep building up schemes and stuff like that," Harris said.